Migrant workers in Qatar living in appalling labour camps

Almost 60 percent of Qatar’s population live in labour camps which are unhygienic and overcrowded. Many of them say they cannot return home.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Migrant labourers work at a construction site at the Aspire Zone in Doha, Qatar, March 26, 2016.

Migrant labourers in Qatar are living in labour camps, an April 2015 census showed on Sunday, once again highlighting Qatar’s migrant labour issue.

The Ministry of Development Planning and Statistics revealed that 1.4 million people (60 percent) live in what the department officially designates as “labour camps”.

The official population was 2.4 million at the time of the survey.

It is unclear why the statistics were only released a year later.  

Human rights groups, including Amnesty International, has condemned Qatar for what it calls “squalid and cramped accommodation” for its migrant workforce.

Inside a labour camp in Doha, Qatar. Photo source: Amnesty International

Last week, 11 people were killed and 12 injured when a fire broke out at a labour camp for workers on a tourism project in the southwest of the country.

In May 2016, Amnesty International released a report saying that labourers were charged unreasonably high recruitment fees, had payment of salaries delayed, lived in dirty and overcrowded accommodation and had their passports confiscated.

Amnesty International further states that under the country’s kafala sponsorship programme, migrant workers are not permitted to change jobs or leave the country without their employer’s permission.

In response to these and other criticisms, seven new housing complexes to the value of $825 million each, are being constructed in Qatar. These complexes named “Labour City” will incorporate shops, cinemas and a cricket stadium and will accommodate 260,000 people in total.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al-Thani has assured India that labour reforms will improve the migrant labour situation in the country, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi highlighted his concerns over labourer abuse during his visit to the Gulf state on Monday.

"The Qatari side briefed the Indian side on the reform in labour laws which would protect the interest of skilled and unskilled labour in Qatar," said the statement issued by the prime minister's office.

There are more than 630,000 Indian nationals, the single largest group of migrants in the country of 2 million, building stadiums and other infrastructure for the 2022 World Cup.

TRTWorld and agencies